Today marks the start of a typically busy week, as I get Boroondara Community Outreach ready to support a large number of people. BCO, which offers a range of services, was established by the Uniting Church in 1993 as a mental health ministry, supported by the Presbytery of Yarra Yarra. We support people who are socially isolated or living with a mental illness, to live with dignity and engage in community.
3-4pm: I shop for the kitchen, liaise with volunteer cooks regarding what is being prepared, and set up the hall for the meal.
4-7.30pm: I set up the church and lead the monthly church service, then help serve the meal, have a chat with those attending and clean up.
8.40-10am: The fruit and vegetables donation from Toscano’s is collected and I shop for the kitchen cooks. Donations are unloaded, emergency relief is set up, then it’s lunch and the art group gathering. I’m also liaising with cooks in the kitchen regarding food for the lunch and meals to be made for the freezer, while donations of bread are unloaded.
10am-4.30pm: I open emergency relief for people, which includes families and those with no income, an art group of 10 people meets, and 25 people attend the community lunch. This is also the time of day we support rough sleepers, who have access to laptops, a washing machine and food. The last 45 minutes is spent packing up the hall and kitchen.
A big part of my role as BCO co-ordinator is pastoral care, and that involves helping people with all sorts of issues. I help a single mum who has suffered domestic violence and whose daughter’s mental health is very poor. A migrant woman has significant health issues, along with her husband and daughter and, with none of them able to work and being on bridging visas, they have no access to Centrelink assistance, so I make an application to an agency to help fund their medication costs.
I call a GP regarding concern about a woman’s swollen eye following surgery, make contact with police about an altercation between two men down the street, and help a 77-year-old woman look for housing online as her lease ends in two weeks and she has no access to, or competence with, computers. I call a real estate agent for help and organise an inspection of a property for her.
Other actions include an email to a lawyer following up the case of a vulnerable man who had his inheritance stolen by his sister, participating in a child protection case conference regarding what supports we are offering the family, and talking with people presenting for emergency relief.
4.30-9pm: Time with my own family before I tackle finances for BCO.
8.30am-4.30pm: It’s the start of another busy day, and I head off to shop to restock food for a local high school’s wellbeing centre for young people who attend with no lunch. I set up the hall and church for today’s groups and community lunch, and talk with our cooks about lunch and what will be made for the freezer. It’s wonderful to see that 15 volunteers have come in for the day.
A number of groups make use of our facilities, including tai chi, ukulele, a choir that I sing with, and a band. Today’s community lunch caters for 40 people.
Pastoral care today involves a meeting with a volunteer accountant regarding the man whose inheritance was stolen, so plans can be put in place for the future management of funds, a call to a hospital to follow up on a woman who I reported missing and was found injured in her home, talking to an elderly woman regarding her financial issues, comforting a migrant woman whose husband died unexpectedly a few months ago and left her in a dire financial situation on a student visa, so I have applied for funding at YMCA to cover the cost of her young daughter doing gymnastics and for both of them to have swimming lessons. I call a hospital to confirm a woman’s appointment and organise a volunteer to take her to the specialist appointment due to her disability. I apply to YMCA for a single mum studying and for her young son to be able to do swimming lessons, while administration involves emails, phone calls, the preparation of flyers for a dance, and work on getting ready for BCO’s 30th year celebration.
5-5.45pm: I meet with a migrant woman who is a victim of domestic violence to help her buy a laptop, as language barriers limit her understanding.
6-9pm: It’s family time before I meet with 4th Kew Scouts Venturers group, which comes and cook food for our emergency relief program. I talk with them about some of the issues facing the people we support.
While BCO itself is closed today, it’s still a busy time involving administration and pastoral care.
9am-12.30pm: I organise one of our volunteers who collects and delivers Fareshare meals to a rooming house. I have a meeting with our treasurer/chairperson regarding finances and property development of the Kew church, deal with emails and make phone calls, as well as talk with a Boroondara Council employee who is heading to a State Government meeting regarding the impact of cost of living issues and any trends we are seeing in people presenting to BCO for support.
12.30-3.45pm: Pastoral care includes helping the 77-year-old lady with an online housing application, emailing Centrelink’s community engagement team regarding two people, following up a grant application with the council, as well as YMCA applications, and ensuring two people have vital medication. I also collect 10 boxes of non-perishable donations from Coles Glenferrie and unload them.
3.45-9.30pm: Some much needed time with the family, before a pastoral phone call with a migrant woman who had her violent husband served with divorce papers tonight.
8.45am-3.30pm: I collect fruit and vegetables from Toscano’s and shop at Woolworths for food for our wonderful cooks. The shopping is unloaded and donations set up for emergency relief and our sewing group, before I meet with an IT representative about fixing laptops. I chat with theological students regarding today’s plan, before emergency relief is opened for those needing assistance. A sewing group consisting of 13 people arrives, while 20 people attend our community lunch. An exercise class run by St. Vincent’s staff is held, while a writing class also takes place.
Pastoral care involves helping a migrant woman set up her laptop, speaking with a single mum regarding concerns about her children, and receiving a phone call from an agency telling me of approved funding. I also help a woman on a disability pension who has just started part-time work to understand how it will impact on her pension, celebrate with an elderly 71-year-old homeless man who comes to us three days a week and has just been offered housing, and chat with people presenting for emergency relief.
3.30-7pm: Dinner and family time involving lots of hugs, before I deal with a call from Kew library staff about a homeless man who is hungry and has no bedding. I call a local takeaway and organise some food for him.
8.30-9.30pm: On my way home from collecting my daughter from drama class, I pick up sleeping bags at the church and take them to the homeless man at the library. I talk with him for a while and give him my phone number to call for tomorrow. I then call police to put him on their radar as I’m quite concerned about his welfare as he is psychiatrically very unwell.
10am-12.30pm: I have a meeting with admin support officer Alex about finances and the organisation of our 30th year celebration, and I visit Preshil school to collect donations at assembly and thank the year 8 student who organised the food drive, before I unload and unpack donations.
12.30-3.30pm: I attend a meeting with Lida, our emergency relief and volunteer co-ordinator, about the list of food for next week, volunteers and rosters. I plan social media for the next week with one of our volunteers, who happens to be my eldest daughter. I check the RSVP list for our 30th year celebration, and work on our Christmas hamper project that provides 600 hampers to vulnerable people in Boroondara. A look at the week’s numbers shows that 195 people came to BCO for support and emergency relief, and 547 meals and 92 non-perishable food parcels, and bread, were distributed. I respond to a text from a teacher at Carey Grammar re students volunteering, then help an elderly woman recharge her phone with a voucher. Two rough sleepers are also supported with access to laptops, food and our washing machine.
3.30-7.30pm: I have dinner with the family and more hugs, before I drop off food for the weekend and talk to library staff and the two homeless men at the library, before I deliver food for a week to an elderly man who has been unwell. I check in with police and St. Vincent’s mental health triage regarding the homeless man at Kew library.
7.30pm: I turn my phone off and clock off for the weekend.